'Star Trek' Movie Gets Science Advice
The poster for the new 'Star Trek' movie, to be released in December 2008.
Credit: Paramount Pictures

The out-of-this world visuals in the new "Star Trek" movie will actually be based on science from our solar system. A NASA planetary scientist has joined the film's production team to ensure the scientific accuracy of the movie's astronomical scenes.

As the leader of the Imaging Science team on NASA'S Cassini mission at Saturn, Carolyn Porco has guided a crew of scientists and engineers responsible for illustrating the mission's results.

Porco now will also work on the new Paramount Pictures film as a consultant on planetary science and imagery.

"This is a fabulous opportunity to bring to a wider audience the discoveries we've made at Saturn, and the spectacular sights we have seen there," Porco said. "And what better way to do that than to make use of those discoveries in the crafting of imagery for one of the most popular movie franchises of all time." 

Porco was invited to join the Star Trek Team by the movie's director and producer, J.J. Abrams.

"Carolyn and her team have produced images that are simply stunning," Abrams said.  "I'm thrilled that she will help guide our production in creating an authentic vision of space, one that immerses our audience in a visual experience as awe-inspiring as what Carolyn's cameras have captured."

Abrams, who co-created, produced, and directed the TV series "Lost," did the same for the TV series "Alias" and directed the film "Mission: Impossible III," was present at the 2007 TED conference in Monterey, California where Porco spoke of the recent findings from the Cassini mission. 

Porco directs the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations (CICLOPS) at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, where Cassini images are processed for release to the public. (Cassini images of Saturn and its rings and moons can be found at the official imaging team Web site, http://ciclops.org)

Porco said she has made it her personal mission to produce images from the spacecraft, launched in October 1997, that are scientifically accurate, artfully presented and as true to life as possible. 

"Ever since we departed Earth 10 years ago," said Porco, "I wanted the world to see and enjoy what the planetary bodies and phenomena imaged by our cameras would look like if one were there, going along for the ride." 

Porco, a frequent commentator on science, astronomy and space exploration for television, radio and print media, is not new to film production.  She served as a consultant on the Warner Bros. movie "Contact" starring Jodie Foster, and as scientific advisor and an animation director for the A&E television special on the 25th anniversary of the Voyager mission, "Cosmic Journey," produced by Cosmos Studios and Norman Star Media.  

Porco played a prominent role in the Voyager mission to the outer planets in the 1980s, and is also an imaging scientist on NASA's New Horizons mission, currently on its way to Pluto.   

She has a space object named after her ? the Asteroid (7231) Porco. It was designated in 1998 to honor her contributions to the exploration of the outer solar system.  

On the new film, Porco will be working directly with Roger Guyett, the movie's supervisor for visual effects.  Guyett has been a creative leader at George Lucas' visual effects firm, Industrial Light and Magic, since 1994, and has been visual effects director for such classics as "Star Wars: Episode III," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," "Mission: Impossible III," "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," and more. 

"Everybody is very excited about Carolyn's involvement in the film," said Guyett.  "Her incredible knowledge and expertise is obviously something we're going to tap into. And the breathtaking imagery that she brings to the collaboration will inspire us all to create some awesome images for our movie!" 

The original 1966-1969 television series "Star Trek" was created by Gene Roddenberry, and sparked a franchise on TV that encompasses 726 total episodes across six different series, including the original. The first 10 "Star Trek" films have grossed in excess of $1 billion at the worldwide box office.   

"Star Trek," currently being filmed, is scheduled for release in December 2008.